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Sitara was in the main lounge, referred to by the crew as The Vista. Situated on Deck 6 at the leading edge of the ship’s saucer-like hull, the lounge provided a panoramic view of space through eleven floor-to-ceiling windows. It was the closest one could come to being out in space without having to don an E.V.A. suit.
“I thought I had done something wrong,” Sitara confessed to doctor Bandel who sat across from her at a small table.
The doctor shook her head. “No, it had nothing to do with you. Just a … last minute change of plans. It happens all the time. You’ll get used to it.”
“Does that mean we’re not going to the Gamma Quadrant?” Sitara asked, in what she hoped was a casual, disinterested tone.
The doctor’s eyes narrowed slightly and she cocked her head to the side. “You’re not disappointed.” It wasn’t a question.
“Oh, yes! Yes I am,” Sitara lied, suddenly remembering that the person across from her was a Betazoid — or at least half-Betazoid — and could almost certainly tell she was not at all disappointed. “I … I was really looking forward to going through the wormhole.”
The doctor studied her for a moment. “The wormhole, yes. But you weren’t looking forward to the Gamma Quadrant. In fact, you’re relieved we’re not going.”
Sitara considered denying it again, but realized there was little point. “Yes,” she finally admitted. “It’s just so far away! What if something happened out there? What if we got lost? What if the wormhole closed and we couldn’t come through again? I worked it out; it could take us more than seventy years at maximum warp to get home. By the time we got back I’d be -“
“An old woman,” the doctor finished for her.
“Exactly,” Sitara agreed. “An old woman.”
“Like me,” the doctor said.
Sitara gasped and put her hands to her cheeks. “No! I didn’t mean — I’m so sorry!”
Doctor Bandel patted her on the arm. “Don’t worry about it, I know what you meant. I’m just playing with you, child. You’re going to have to learn to relax.”
“It’s hard,” Sitara sighed.
“The Symphony doesn’t have a ship’s counselor,” the doctor told her. “It may be because we’re too small, but I prefer to think it’s because we’re all just so damned emotionally stable we don’t need one.”
“In any case,” the doctor continued, “I want you to know that if you ever need to talk, I’m here to listen.”
“Thank you,” Sitara replied, suddenly more relaxed than she had been in a long time.